Monday, July 30, 2018



[Photo of child daydreaming]

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion
raised against the knowledge of God, and
take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
—2 Corinthians 10:5

Much of my childhood, and more of my adulthood than I would like to admit, has been lived inside my imagination. By the time I got to Junior High school math class, I had so many gaps in my knowledge, I never caught up. I believe now that when class got boring I would slip into my daydreaming mode and miss whatever happened as the teacher explained important math concepts.

As I worked on my master degree project of studying the effects of inattention in music class, I learned that there are children with ADD (without the hyperactivity component) who behave and seem eager to please teachers, but who spend much of their time far away in thought.

I have also learned that often, our greatest gifting can get derailed by sinful temptations. For example, those with vivid imaginations seem to have creative and sometimes entrepreneurial talents that God wants to use for the benefit of His church, and the world in general. But, Satan tempts them into using their daydreams to disrupt God’s plans.

The Puritan, Richard Sibbes, contrasted the evil and good effects of daydreaming.1

Among the faculties of the soul, much of our unnecessary trouble arises from the imagination… The imagination can see greater happiness in outward good things and a greater misery in outward difficulties than there really is. Many lives are almost nothing but imagination.

He poses the solution to this problem.2

It is necessary that God by his Word and Spirit should erect a government in our hearts to captivate and direct this licentious faculty. To cure this malady, we must labor to bring our soul into obedience to God’s truth and Spirit.

Just as Satan can use the work of our imagination to derail our attention, distort God’s voice, or lead us astray, God can use this tremendous power for good. If we dedicate our thoughts to Him, He can show us truths within His written Word in new ways, direct our creative ideas for the use of His church, and excite us to serve Him in new ways.

Again, Sibbes writes:3

A sanctified imagination makes all creation a ladder to heaven.


1 Sibbes, Richard, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 170.
2 Ibid. p. 170.
3 Ibid. p. 207.



Monday, July 23, 2018

Show Me Where It Hurts


[Photo of a mother looking at a child's hand]

“Cast all your anxiety on him
because he cares for you.”
—2 Peter 5:7

When I taught school, children frequently came to me with hurt fingers or knees. Often all they needed was my concern, whether I could take the pain away or not. Very often, the actual “hurt” was long gone before they complained.

I love the story of the healing of Lazarus in John 11. Jesus loved the sisters, Mary and Martha, as well as their brother, Lazarus, who had died. Even though word had been sent to Jesus that Lazarus was ill and dying, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days. He had a much higher plan than anyone could have thought.

Bereft, grieving, and totally puzzled by Jesus’ actions, Mary stayed at home while Martha ran to greet Jesus when he arrived. But, what gladness she must have felt when Martha came looking for her saying, as recorded in John 11:28:

“The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”

Jesus was asking for Mary, His friend.

When Mary went to greet Jesus, He saw her weeping and verse 33 reads:

“He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” [And here comes Jesus’ statement:] “Where have you laid him?” [Or, “Show me where it hurts!” And then:] “Jesus wept.”

Often we hear that Jesus wept because of His great love and sorrow over Lazarus. Somehow, I don’t think Jesus was concerned about Lazarus. After all, He knew that Lazarus would, in a few minutes, stand before them healed!

Instead, I think that Jesus wept because of His compassion for Mary’s pain. After the healing of Lazarus, we see what Mary did to show her tremendous gratitude to Jesus. In John 12:3 we read that she poured over Jesus feet a pint of pure nard—a very expensive perfume worth a great deal. The depth of her pain shows in the depth of her gratitude.

Jesus often acts the way with us that He did with Mary. When we suffer, He longs to come to us and call us by name. He shows His concern by deeply moving expressions of His love, and even asks us, “Show me where it hurts.” He wants to know every detail and to share His compassion with us. Lamentations 3:33 tells us:

“For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”

But, when He finds such things necessary for His greater will, we can count on His loving care, the same as He showed to Mary of Bethany.

I like this quote from Matthew Henry, a 17th century Presbyterian minister:1

Those that in the day of peace place themselves at Christ’s feet, to receive instructions from him, may with comfort and confidence in a day of trouble cast themselves at his feet with hope to find favour with him.


1 Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary. McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Co., Public Domain. Vol. V, p. 1053.



Monday, July 16, 2018

The Mystery of His Silence


[Photo of two young boys making a mess]

“You have covered yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can get through.”
—Lamentations 3:44

A person who spends any amount of time with a toddler fears the silence. “What is he up to now?” we ask. The inference: “up to no good!” We prefer to trust what others do when we can’t see them. Sometimes, in our relationship with God, we hear nothing but silence and wonder, “What is He up to now?”

Job, the upright and blameless man, whose life and trials the Bible documents, heard nothing from God but silence when God took away his family, his business, and his health. In one frustrating moment, recorded in Job 23:3, Job cried out:

“Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come before His presence!”

Job did a lot of self-talk, just as Jeremiah did in his Book of Lamentations. This self-talk reminded both men of God’s unsearchable ways, His wisdom, and His care. Both came to the conclusion that they were not God, and could do nothing but cling to His mercy and to trust in Him. Both lived with God’s silence for much longer than either of them wanted.

In her book about women from the Bible, Carolyn Curtis Jones writes:1

God’s silence is not an accurate way to measure what he is doing. It’s easy to forget he often does his best work when, so far as we can tell, he doesn’t seem to be doing anything at all. But looking back on those long agonizing stretches of God’s silence, most of us will say those were the times in our relationship with God when he was doing the most.

Like Job, we may not know what God plans for us, as we travel through the darkness and silence. But, He wants us to learn to trust Him. And, like Job’s words, recorded in Job 13:15:

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”

The conclusion of the story finds Job in Job 42:5 remarking:

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

God is not like the toddler: “up to no good.” No, instead He is always “up to good.” His good and our good.


1 James, Carolyn Curtis, Lost Women of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. p. 127.



Monday, July 9, 2018

Squeezing Out the Juice


[Photo of squeezing an orange]

“But his [the blessed man’s]
delight is in the law of the Lord, and
on his law he meditates day and night.”
—Psalm 1:2

Experts say that squeezing two to four oranges yields about eight ounces of juice. Nothing can beat real freshly squeezed orange juice for flavor and sweetness. Yet, most of us would rather buy the “made from concentrate” brands in the supermarket. Why is that? Well, because of the time and mess involved, I suppose. At least that’s my excuse.

And, why don’t Christians enjoy the sweet fellowship of God in Jesus Christ more? Probably for a similar reason. It takes time to squeeze out the best flavors from His written Word. Nothing substitutes for meditation on the written Word of God and the sweet truths we learn through it.

In Scripture, we read that David, named the “man after God’s own heart” loved meditation. Vividly, we see in Psalm 19 that David meditated on the wonders of the sky, and the wonders of the laws of God. After considering, He prayed, as recorded in verse 14:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Puritan minister, David Clarkson, who lived in the 17th century, wrote about the advancement of faith through meditation. He stated that God develops faith in us when we think on His express promises, Scriptural assertions, God’s acts through and on behalf of His people, through the prayers of His people, and through His commandments. He writes:1

Gather the promises and meditate on them. They are meat in this wilderness. Often be mining their treasures. Do not allow these pearls to lie neglected in the field. Treasure them up. Fill your memories with them. A promise treasured will afford comfort in our callings, dungeons, and banishments. Meditate frequently and seriously on them.

Occasionally, try paring down your Scripture reading to just a few verses and spend time meditating word by word. Specifically:

  • Pen in hand, expand your thoughts about God and record your thoughts on paper.

  • Write a prayer using the words of the verses you have just read.

  • Remember a hymn that connects to the concepts on which you have just meditated.

  • Consider other Scripture passages that bring out the same truths about God, and compare and contrast them.

In other words, squeeze out those sweet juices. You will develop a connoisseur’s taste and build your faith in the process!


1 Clarkson, David, quoted in Voices. Richard Rushing, editor. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 174.



Monday, July 2, 2018

Blessing and Keeping


[Photo of a Pastor giving a Benediction]

“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord make his face shine upon
thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The Lord lift up his countenance
upon thee, and give thee peace.”
—Numbers 6:24-26 KJV

The smiling clerk in the copy store always ends our time of business with “Have a great weekend.” The cashier at the bank closes with “Enjoy the rest of your day.” And, the kid at the drive-through window of the fast food restaurant tells me, “Have a good one!”

How many of us consider the words that the pastor says over his or her congregation each week as a kind of “Have a good week?” This send-off—when done in church we actually call it the “Benediction,” which is the Latin word for “the blessing”—has far more power than something someone just says when you sneeze, or end a business transaction, or say a good-bye.

The Benediction, or Final Blessing of a Worship Service, represents not only the words and deliberate intention of a pastor to share God’s blessing, but it needs the reception of the congregation to complete it. Don’t we always say “thank you” even to the parting phrases spoken to us in a store?

We would do well to say to God:

Thank You that I will now live under Your blessing this week. I receive that word as though spoken by You to me. I also receive Your keeping power: the grace and the peace that the pastor, on Your behalf, has just given me.

In one church where I worshipped, the Order of Service provided for an additional minute of reflection after the Benediction and before the chatter and loud notes of the Postlude. In this time, the congregation silently and reverently thanked God for all they had received during that hour, including His blessing.

I would suggest that from now on, every Sunday when we hear the Benediction from our pastor, that we would consciously and purposefully “receive” that Benediction with thanksgiving. Emily Brink states it this way:1

Perhaps you, like me, really look forward to the final blessing in every service. That is the time when God speaks his reassuring words of power, when he promises us that he will be with us and will sustain us. When the minister raises his hands, we receive, long distance as it were, the laying on of hands. And we know that the Holy Spirit will grant us the power that is needed to make us a blessing.


1 Brink, Emily R. “Make Me a Blessing: Benedictions Are More Than Pious Wishes.” Reformed Worship, March, 1991. (accessed: June 28, 2018).